2018/1/1 – Granite Mountain XV / 花崗岩山之十五

Within grasp
Within grasp

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Armed with optimal weather forecast and moderate avalanche danger, pup an I continued our New Year’s tradition on this mountain. Last year we weren’t so lucky with the weather and postphoned the trip by two weeks. Despite a night of year-end celebration for most people, I successfully enlisted one climbing partner to join us today.

Dave and I had originally planned the usual south ridge route for a direct approach. But after seeing that the trail had already been broken, we were more than happy to conserve the energy and follow the existing tracks in the direction of the summer trail. A ton of avalanche debris strewed the snow chutes.

Momentary cloudiness
Momentary cloudiness

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Several switchbacks through the dense forest later, we came out onto the open slopes at 4,400′ below the summer meadow area. There we past three energetic hikers on their way down from a sunrise climb. Snow had been packed down by the hikers for us to continue in boots comfortably.

My legs felt heavy with sleep from yesterday’s outing, but I was looking forward to getting a long break on top. Just below the southeast ridge the slopes became icy, so we made a quick stop at 5,000′ to put on traction device. I switched from microspikes to snowshoes while Dave put on crampons.

Snow arête
Snow arête

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Shortly afterward we attained the southeast ridge overlooking the meadow area below Granite Mountain’s steep east face. Some snowshoe tracks were seen meandering through the meadow to the back side of the lookout tower.

We continued traversing the ridge while carefully avoiding big gaps between granite rocks where snow hadn’t completely filled in. The last 400′ to the top went by fast with a gradual rising traverse and plenty of talking.

Kaleetan and Chair
Kaleetan and Chair

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Mostly cloudy weather forecast ended up being mostly sunny. We spent over an hour on top chewing the fat and watching the beautiful temperature inversion over Snoqualmie Pass spilling clouds into nearby basins. A loop trip suggested by Dave didn’t sound like a bad idea given the plenty of daylight remaining. After the break we descended northwest ridge toward West Granite (Tusk O’Granite).

Having kept my snowshoes on, pup and I avoided the icy slopes by hugging the ridge and staying close to the trees on the descent to the northwest saddle. Dave kept his crampons on and had a much easier time breaking through the ice crust.

Granite Mountain from West Granite
Granite Mountain from West Granite

Photos from this trip can be found here.

We took a break on the woodsy east end of the summit ridge before heading over to the west end for more open views. From there, we descended the south ridge on mixed snow conditions and picked up snowshoe tracks on south slopes. It seemed to have taken forever before finally reaching the Pratt Lake Trail at 3,000′.

Back on the trail, I switched back to microspikes for traction on ice. Two miles of hiking and we were back at the cars a little over an hour before sunset.

Access: Granite Mountain Trailhead
Gear: snowshoes, microspikes, crampons, ice axe


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